Our top 9 strategies for eating out as an athlete

Eating out. It can be a heap of fun to go out for a meal with family or friends… but if your focus is on health eating then it can occasionally get a bit tricky. Add in some special dietary requirements and your options can become pretty limited, and worse still you risk become the ‘problem’ eater in the group. Well-meaning friends start to tease you with ‘just chill, the fries aren’t gonna hurt you!’.
Well, I’d rather not have a serve of deep-fried foods, thank you. I’d never do it at home, and I prefer not to do it when I go out either. Chances I will be getting up to train early the next morning, so I want to feel at my energetic best. So, with that in mind, I picked the brains of our training squad as we cycled this week and asked… as an athlete, what do you eat when you go out? Here are my favourite tips they came up with… (let me know yours – we can add to this!)

Don’t be afraid to speak up and order what suits you:

Especially in race week, stick to what suits you and order accordingly without being swayed by others’ opinions.

Keep it clean:

Look for meals that include clean protein like grilled fish or steak and order a side of veggies or salad.

You don’t need to eat the bread:

Do you eat a bread roll before dinner every night at home? Chances are probably not, so skip the roll and enjoy your lighter meal.

Try two starters:

This is my favourite eating out strategy, especially when there are limited vegetarian options on the menu: Look for hummus and pitta, with a Greek salad on the side. Or a try a bruschetta plus a green salad for a complete meal.

Asian food is a great option:

Choose a veggie stir fry with a light sauce plus tofu for a lighter meal which is big on nutrients.

Always order a side of veggies or salad:

Whatever the restaurant description of the veg portion of a meal states, there is a very good chance won’t fill half your plate. Order a salad and ask for the dressing on the side so you can choose how much goes on it.

Don’t overeat:

At home I serve up a plate of food and that’s it… no seconds. I don’t know anyone who ever said, ‘gee I’m so glad I went back for more – I feel great!’.

Pack a snack:

Ok, so this isn’t officially eating out… but turning up for a night out when you’re starving is a recipe for disaster. Chances are you’ll fill up on drinks and dips before your meal even arrives… and before you know it you are either tipsy or have eaten too much! I always keep a box of almonds or a protein bar in my bag and will happily have this before we head out for a meal so I don’t get caught out!

Eat the dessert:

If you don’t regularly indulge at home, consider this a great chance to have a treat. A slice of cake or dessert is the perfect way to end a special meal if you feel like it – and it also means you don’t have the rest of a cake waiting on your kitchen bench begging to be eaten!

Remember, restaurants aren’t generally prepping meals in the best interests of your health; they are trying to make it taste fabulous so you rave about it, and of course come back to dine there again. If a healthy night out is important to you as an athlete, speak up, stick to your guns and order what you really fell like! And don’t worry about the teasing from your mates… they’re just trying to get you to eat rubbish to make themselves feel better, right?!

Do you have any great tips? Let us know how you handle eating out…